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Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves review: a breath of fresh air

Simon, Edgin, Doric, and Holga stand in the Underdark together in "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves."
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves isn't quite as polished as one would like, but it still emerges as a fun and immensely entertaining fantasy blockbuster.”
  • A likable cast of heroes
  • A clever and entertaining screenplay
  • Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley's lively, visually inventive direction
  • Rough visual effects throughout
  • Some comedic and emotional moments don't land as well as others

The opening moments of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves feel intentionally designed to call to mind the infamously brutal cold open of Game of Thrones. As an imposing orc is escorted through a cold blizzard in the film’s prologue, it’s easy to imagine a reality where Honor Among Thieves was just yet another somber fantasy adventure in the same vein as Thrones or even, to a lesser extent, Lord of the Rings. Thankfully, the film pivots as far away as it can from the somber brutalism of those two properties.

It isn’t long after the aforementioned orc prisoner is introduced for the first time that he is summarily beaten up in truly screwball fashion by the film’s actual leads, the endlessly optimistic Edgin (Chris Pine) and the tough but kind-hearted Holga (Michelle Rodriguez). Moments later, Pine’s Edgin launches into a voice-over narration that winkingly and efficiently explains exactly how he and Rodriguez’s Holga ended up in their frostbitten prison in the first place. For their next trick, Honor Among Thieves directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley wrap up Edgin’s knowingly exposition-heavy monologue with a twist that pays off the scene’s central running joke in unexpected fashion.

As far as openings go, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’ effectively establishes the tongue-in-cheek, lighthearted tone that separates it from so many of the other, suffocatingly serious Hollywood blockbusters moviegoers see nowadays. However, while Goldstein and Daley’s ability to seamlessly blend their outrageous sense of humor with the film’s fantasy setting would be reason enough to recommend Honor Among Thieves, what’s even more impressive is how the duo does so while also imbuing their latest directorial effort with more genuine heart and sincerity than most viewers will likely see coming.

Holga, Simon, Edgin, and Doric stand around a portal together in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.
Aidan Monaghan/Paramount Pictures / Paramount Pictures

Coming off their underrated 2018 studio outing, Game Night, Daley and Goldstein have returned with another star-studded studio comedy that’s light, punchy, and — above all else — immensely fun. Much like Game Night, Daley and Goldstein’s latest film revolves around a cast of conflicting and complimentary personalities. At the center of the film are Edgin and Holga, two misfits who bonded together years before to help raise Edgin’s young daughter, Kira (Chloe Coleman). When Honor Among Thieves first catches up with them, the pair is carrying out a multi-year prison sentence for their participation in a heist that they attempted to carry out with their former band of thieves.

After Holga and Edgin break free from their shared imprisonment, they immediately seek out Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant), a con man who made it out of their failed heist and swore to take care of Kira. When they find him, Edgin and Holga discover that Forge has not only risen up in society’s ranks and become a lord but he’s also been steadily turning Kira against her former guardians. With the help of a nefarious wizard named Sofina (Daisy Head), Forge sends Edgin and Holga away. In doing so, he ignites a desire within Edgin and Holga to both win Kira back and steal all of Forge’s riches.

To pull off their task, Edgin and Holga reunite with another member of their former band of thieves, an insecure and bumbling sorcerer named Simon (Justice Smith), who helps them recruit Doric (Sophia Lillis), a powerful shapeshifter. Along the way, the group of misfit heroes also crosses paths with Xenk Yendar (Regé-Jean Page), a charming and immortal paladin, who helps them retrieve a powerful magical artifact from a hellish underground world known as “The Underdark.” Together, the heroes form a group that, like most D&D adventuring parties, feels both familiar and specific.

Hugh Grant smiles as Forge in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.
Aidan Monaghan/Paramount Pictures

As convoluted and relentlessly knotty as its plot is, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves speeds through its adventure at a fast pace that doesn’t ever let the film become too bogged down in the weeds of its own world-building or lore. Despite featuring more than its fair share of Easter eggs, Honor Among Thieves never feels weighed down by the legacy of its name brand, or by the fact that it is just Hollywood’s latest attempt to capitalize on the success of Dungeons & Dragons. The film doesn’t, by any means, hide its potential franchise ambitions, but it also doesn’t let the weight of its IP origins distract it from the most important aspects of its story.

While Honor Among Thieves never quite captures the true absurdity or chaos that can occur during a D&D game, either, the film does an effective job at forcing its characters — particularly Pine’s Edgin — to constantly rethink their plans and improvise. The film’s third act is a series of improvisations and backup plans concocted by its heroes every time one of their efforts to best Grant’s Forge go awry. The film’s clunky batch of fantasy character names, meanwhile, only makes its D&D roots feel that much more palpable (“Edgin” feels precisely like the type of name that would come from the fantasy word generators D&D players frequently use).

More than anything, Daley and Goldstein’s hyper, character-driven approach to Honor Among Thieves’ story ensures that the film never feels too weighty or massive for its own good. Like all Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, the film’s ultimate purpose is to entertain. It’s to Daley and Goldstein’s credit that the film pulls that off as well as it does, especially in spite of the bad visual effects that inevitably drag down some of Honor Among Thieves’ biggest and boldest set pieces. Fortunately, there are a handful of sequences throughout the film that are as visually polished as they are well-constructed — namely, the Xenk-led excursion into the Underdark that helps cap off its second act.

Simon, Doric, Edgin, and Holga stand in an arena in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.
Paramount Pictures

On-screen, Honor Among Thieves’ crew of main and supporting players all fill their roles well. Pine and Grant are their usual, reliably charismatic selves, and prove to be capable of both having fun with Honor Among Thieves’ fantasy genre roots and treating their characters’ emotional journeys with enough sincerity to ensure that they land. Rodriguez, meanwhile, shines in a role that lets her be as ferocious and formidable as audiences expect, but also softer and more emotionally vulnerable than she’s typically allowed to be. Her work here serves as yet another reminder of how good Rodriguez can be when she’s not stuck working within the formulaic franchise machinery of the Fast and Furious series.

Elsewhere, neither Smith nor Lillis shines quite as brightly as their co-stars, though, that’s largely due to the constraints of Michael Gilio, Goldstein, and Daley’s screenplay. Simon’s journey toward self-confidence, consequently, doesn’t feel as fleshed out as some of Honor Among Thieves’ other, more emotionally resonant arcs, including Edgin’s gradual, bittersweet realization of his failures as a father. Page, for his part, fulfills the requirements of his role as the charming, aloof Xenk with an ease that makes it easy to remember why the actor caused such a stir just a few years ago.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves | Official Trailer (2023 Movie)

Whether the film’s characters will ever get the chance to return for a sequel or not, Daley and Goldstein’s latest directorial effort stands on its own. Honor Among Thieves is the kind of increasingly rare Hollywood contemporary blockbuster that prioritizes its characters over everything else — sometimes to its own, visual detriment. At its best, the film manages to capture the same sense of fun and infectious camaraderie that was once a core component of the fantasy genre. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves doesn’t just bring friendship back to the genre, though. It also reminds viewers why it became such an essential part of fantasy stories in the first place.

The film proves that even the most seemingly mercenary of brand cash-ins can emerge as worthwhile and memorable stories — so long as they’re told with equal amounts of heart and charm.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves hits theaters on March 31. For a detailed explanation about the film’s ending, please read Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’ ending, explained.

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Alex Welch
Alex is a TV and movies writer based out of Los Angeles. In addition to Digital Trends, his work has been published by…
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